Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/204

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151
THE FATE OF GEORGE BASS

did he mean by that? He spoke of "digging gold in South America," and clearly did not mean it in the strict literal sense.

It is true that the Governor was anxious to get South American cattle and beef for the settlement in Sydney, but can that have been the only motive for a voyage beyond Tahiti? "If our approaching voyage proves at all fortunate in its issue, I expect to make a handsome thing out of it, and to be much expedited on my return to old England," Bass wrote in January. He would not have been likely to make so very handsome a thing out of beef in one voyage, to enable him to expedite his return to England.

The factors of the case are, then, that Bass had on his hands a large quantity of goods which he had failed to sell in Sydney; that there was a considerable and enormously profitable contraband trade with South America at the time; that he expected to make a very large and rapid profit out of the venture he was about to undertake; that he warned Waterhouse against mentioning the matter outside the family circle, "for there is treason in the very name"; and that he was himself a man distinguished by dash and daring, who was very anxious to make a substantial sum and return to England soon. The inference from his language and circumstances as to the scheme he had in hand is irresistible.

The "very diplomatic-looking certificate" which the Governor gave him was dated February 3, 1803. It certified that "Mr. George Bass, of the brigantine Venus, has been employed since the first day of November, 1801, upon His Britannic Majesty's service in procuring provisions for the subsistence of His Majesty's colony, and still continues using those exertions;" and it went on to affirm that should he find it expedient to resort to any harbour in His Catholic